Starr cleared to probe files case Whitewater counsel can examine actions of White House aides

June 22, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- A panel of appellate court judges yesterday authorized Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing by White House aides who obtained sensitive FBI files on more than 400 past employees of Republican administrations.

Acting at the request of Attorney General Janet Reno a day earlier, the judges said Starr should expand his jurisdiction to look into the conduct of Anthony Marceca, an Army detailee and one-time political operative, and any others who may have participated in obtaining the records.

White House officials, who have attributed the file episode to an innocent bureaucratic bungle, said they would cooperate in Starr's investigation. Starr, who initially began examining two years ago whether President and Mrs. Clinton illegally benefited from their investment in an Ozark real estate development known as Whitewater, already has taken his probe far afield.

He subpoenaed first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton last January to testify to a federal grand jury about the sudden appearance of long-sought billing records that reflected her legal work for a failed Little Rock, Ark., savings and loan at the heart of the Whitewater case. Two months later -- at Reno's recommendation -- he began looking into possible congressional perjury by a former White House aide who played a role in the 1993 firing of seven employees from the White House travel office.

Ten Republicans on the recently expired Senate Whitewater Committee also asked Starr yesterday to investigate possible perjury by three administration figures who testified during the committee's 13-month investigation. But Starr's office has not said yet whether he will accept that referral.

The judges said that Starr should investigate whether Marceca violated the law when he asked the FBI for confidential materials under false pretenses. Marceca, working in the White House office of personnel security, requested the files on grounds they were needed to give persons he named "access" to the White House.

However, 407 persons whose files were sought and obtained by the White House did not require such access because they already had left government service, including former Secretary

of State James A. Baker III.

White House officials have called this an innocent mistake, saying Marceca was working from an outdated Secret Service list in an effort to update clearances for Clinton administration employees.

Besides Marceca, the judges directed Starr to investigate "any [other] person or entity who has engaged in unlawful conspiracy or who has aided or abetted any federal offense, as necessary to resolve the matter."

D. Craig Livingstone, who as director of the personnel office was Marceca's superior, last week was placed on indefinite administrative leave by the White House. Neither Livingstone, Marceca nor their attorneys could be reached for comment yesterday.

As House and Senate committees pursue their own inquiries, Starr's new role might hamper the appearance of witnesses before Congress and reduce the flow of publicly available information. Legal sources said Marceca and Livingstone, who are scheduled to testify next week to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, may refuse to appear on constitutional grounds because they could be the subjects of criminal prosecutions.

Marceca and Livingstone, both former political operatives with no background in security work, might hold the key to the mystery of what lists of names they were working from.

A Secret Service official told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that its own computerized lists are never outdated, but are kept current month by month.

However, Lisa Wetzl, a former White House employee who took over the security clearance project after Marceca's departure, contradicted Secret Service claims in interviews with reporters.

Wetzl, 25, said that during her two years at the White House, it was not uncommon to find lists with errors.

Pub Date: 6/22/96

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